Polling data is tricky, and too often people use it to justify their errors. Some polls are helpful, however, provided that we take them for what they are worth.
This is in from CNA:
New Haven, Conn., May 19, 2009 / 08:35 pm (CNA).- Both American Catholics and their non-Catholic countrymen have an “overwhelmingly” favorable view of Pope Benedict XVI, a new poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus says.
About 78 percent of practicing Catholics [note: "practicing"] had a favorable or very favorable view of Pope Benedict. Non-practicing Catholics were only slightly less [that is the interesting stat] likely to profess a favorable view. Among all Americans, about 59 percent had a favorable or very favorable view of the pontiff.
The poll was conducted in late March by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and the Knights of Columbus. It surveyed 2,078 Americans including 521 American Catholics. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent concerning responses from all Americans and a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent for Catholic respondents.
According to the survey results, about 65 percent of Americans in general and 85 percent of Catholic Americans said they had a favorable view of the Catholic Church. Of practicing Catholics, 92 percent had a favorable view of the Church while only 73 percent of non-practicing Catholics did.
The poll reported that about half of Americans said [get this...] they would like to hear Pope Benedict XVI on issues like abortion and stem cell research, while .57 percent wanted to hear his views on marriage and the family. [People want to hear from trustworthy sources about the burning issues of our day and lives.]
Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl A. Anderson, commenting in an column for Zenit news agency, said the positive responses were “a great testament to the Pope’s ability to communicate the Gospel directly to people.”
“It is an unswerving commitment to the truth — and the ability through his own prayerfulness to introduce people to Jesus Christ — that has made Benedict XVI a beacon of moral courage whose message the American people and people worldwide respect and wish to hear. We might call it a triumph of truth over television,” he wrote.
Now if we could just start using the means of communication more effectively.
I think people were very interested to see Pope John Paul, but they are really interested to hear Pope Benedict.
Pope Benedict speaks with great clarity, making hard concepts easier to understand by means of a step by step presentation. He is also a very linear speaker and writer, which makes him easier to follow. Pope John Paul would circle and circle back, revisiting points as he developed them and his delivery style was a little less engaging… until he went off script. And then… It didn’t happen often, but when it did… wow. Pope Benedict is far more likely to leave his text and speak off the cuff, which is electrifying.
People want to know Holy Church has to say. The Church is the great enemy for many because they know she speaks a truth from positions they cannot assail with reason. As a matter of fact, that is why they nearly always use a personal attack or try to veer the conversation into emotions. But I think people have retained a sense that when the Catholic Church speaks on faith and morals, they know they are going to get the straight stuff.
We need to use the tools of social communication more effectively. I am doing my bit, but imagine what we could do if we collectively were dedicated to that task.